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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) is one of those beloved comedies you take for granted. I hadn’t seen it in 20+ years, so I was kinda afraid it might not hold up. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why it works so well, and it would be hard to explain why it’s funny if somebody asked. I’m not sure if you had to be there or not.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a pretty straight forward comical premise: what if a couple of dumb guys got a hold of a time machine and recruited actual historical figures to help with their history test? But for the most part that’s not really what’s funny about it. It’s the particular personalities of the dumb guys, and the reasons they have access to time travel.

Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter, DEATH WISH 3) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves, THE NIGHT BEFORE) are a Californian version of what we used to call “rockers” and some regions called “heshers” – guys whose lives center around heavy metal and/or hard rock. In the wild you’d expect them to have longer hair and leather jackets, smoke lots of pot and drink lots of beer, but Bill and Ted mostly just idolize Van Halen, talk about “babes,” and laugh at the number 69. They have a band called Wyld Stallyns, which features only the two of them on guitar, an instrument neither of them knows how to play. Still, their worst fear os for the band to be broken up if Ted fails his history test, in which case his dad (Hal Landon Jr., ERASERHEAD), who is a police captain and wears an NRA jacket while off duty, will ship him off to Oats Military Academy in Alaska. (read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (30th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

July 3, 1991

There are a few interesting summer of ’91 movies – STONE COLD, THE ROCKETEER, HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN – that I skipped in this series because I’d already reviewed them in a form I felt satisfied with. If I had more time I would’ve like to revisit them for completism, but you know how it is.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is one I wrote about in 2007 (with a pretty good comparison to E.T.) and more definitively in 2017 on the occasion of its 3D re-release. But when I decided to do a summer of ’91 series I knew it was the summer of T2 and it had to be included. So this is meant as a supplemental review about its place in 1991, but I think I’ve come up with some pretty meaty stuff to discuss (in addition to silly stuff about toys and video games and crap if you’re more interested in that).


(read the rest of this shit…)

Scanners II: The New Order

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

[Joy Division joke not provided]

Let it be known that I am a critic who can find a reason to review SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER twice. I didn’t know this about myself until I was doing this Summer of ’91 retrospective and realizing how important part 2s were to the season. This came out direct-to-video on June 28, 1991. So here we are.

(I first reviewed it in 2010, in a series where I also looked at SCANNERS, SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER, SCANNER COP and SCANNERS: THE SHOWDOWN. In those days the sequels were only on VHS.)

Of the sequels we’ve looked at so far I suppose the sequelization approach of SCANNERS II is closest to HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS – a story about a new set of characters set in the same world, where people are secretly telepathic rather than lycanthropic. But it’s different in that two of the characters are eventually revealed to be the children of part I’s protagonist. (Unlike MANNEQUIN: ON THE MOVE we have no returning actors.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Terminator

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“Your world is pretty terrifying.”

Summer of ’91 origins: THE TERMINATOR

The only review I’ve written of the original THE TERMINATOR was in 2007 – so out of date it was combined into a review of the “trilogy” and framed as a response to THE TRANSFORMERS. There are some good observations and funny lines in that review, but I’m a smarter person now and I think there’s way more to say about the movie. So I thought I should take another crack at it before we get to its sequel in this Summer of ’91 retrospective.

In the fall of 1984, director/co-writer James Cameron exploded into filmgoer-consciousness with a stylish and imaginative little sci-fi chase movie called THE TERMINATOR. Made on about a fifth of the budget of the recent hit GHOSTBUSTERS and released by outsiders Hemdale (VICE SQUAD, TURKEY SHOOT) and Orion Pictures (MAD MAX, THE HAND, ROCK & RULE), it nevertheless immediately announces itself as a force to be reckoned with. The quiet, world-establishing text, the nightmarish glimpses of futuristic combat between man and machine, the absolute all-timer of a theme by Brad Fiedel (JUST BEFORE DAWN) and the slow reveal of the logo (title design by Ernest D. Farino, who later did GODZILLA 1985, CRITTERS, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, ALIEN NATION, THE ABYSS and NEMESIS) all set the mood for a genre movie of unusual ferocity. Not bad for a guy who had only directed PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING. (read the rest of this shit…)

Psycho Goreman

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

As you may know, I can sometimes be a grump about horror comedies, because I’d rather be watching a horror movie that’s funny than a funny movie that references horror. But here’s a movie that’s on Shudder and has gore in it that is a straight up comedy and I kinda loved it.

The closest I can come to succinctly describing the vibe of PSYCHO GOREMAN is “that movie STAR KID combined with THE TOXIC AVENGER.” Or “WISHMASTER meets POWER RANGERS but a comedy.” Or “THE GUYVER meets SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER.” It’s about two little kids who find an alien artifact called “The Gem of Praxidike” buried in their backyard and then learn that it gives them power over a murderous alien supervillain the opening narration describes as “a nameless evil” and “ruthless being” that “had amassed power beyond measure, and was preparing to strike down all that was good and just in the universe.” He says he’s called “The Arch-Duke of Nightmares,” but Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) think that’s stupid, so they rename him Psycho Goreman, or P.G. for short. And Mimi treats this hateful monster as her personal play thing, making him do silly things and not really caring when he uses his powers to turn people into goo. (read the rest of this shit…)

Suburban Commando

Monday, June 21st, 2021

According to IMDb, SUBURBAN COMMANDO had a limited release on June 21, 1991, before a wider one in October. Therefore, it is my misfortune to have decided to categorize it as a Summer of ’91 release.

Nah, I’ll be okay, but you will not be surprised to hear that this second Hulk Hogan vehicle from New Line Cinema is even dumber and shittier than NO HOLDS BARRED, and not as entertainingly so since it’s a family comedy instead of a brain damaged underground fighting movie. But I made it through and I know what it is now and at least I was able to see the big screen debut of one of today’s most acclaimed actresses in television and film.

The premise is that you got a bounty hunter guy from a poorly explained, generic bootleg Star Wars rip-off sci-fi universe who lands on earth and lives with a bad movie’s idea of a normal suburban family. ALF with muscles and worse jokes. In the opening you have some cheap looking Star Destroyer knockoff model shots as the great hero (or maybe anti-hero? it’s not really clear) Shep Ramsey (Hulk Hogan, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH) flies in to save the president (Nick Eldredge, “S.I.D. #1,” Hill Street Blues) from their dollar store Darth Vader, General Suitor (William Ball, one episode of The Streets of San Francisco) who’s just a regular unimpressive dude in a black outfit and cape, no mask. (read the rest of this shit…)

Boss Level

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

I watched that movie PALM SPRINGS recently. It’s a GROUNDHOG DAY time loop romantic comedy type thing that uses the concept in a smart way that makes it a parallel to depression and hopelessness, and it’s just a funny movie and I enjoyed it. I also really liked HAPPY DEATH DAY (GROUNDHOG DAY as a slasher movie) and its sequel HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U was pretty good too.

But I feel a little weird about “GROUNDHOG DAY” being a genre now. The first is still the best and most profound iteration of the form, and it’s such a distinctive premise that any movie that does a spin on it can’t help but feel a little more like biting than following a tradition. So I wasn’t exactly jumping to see Joe Carnahan’s BOSS LEVEL, which is GROUNDHOG DAY crossed with an action movie. I’m not too excited about “life is a video game” concepts either, so the title didn’t help.

But I shouldn’t have hesitated because this is a whole lot of fun, one of Carnahan’s best, and I think the script by Chris & Eddie Borey (OPEN GRAVE) and Carnahan earns the use of the time loop. Most of these movies wisely never explain the reason for the phenomenon – this feels very different because it’s all about him figuring out what’s doing this to him and why, so he has a more traditional, specific problem to solve (though along the way he learns life lessons like in the other ones). (read the rest of this shit…)

Heavy Metal

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Six months after AMERICAN POP we got another animated-feature-for-adults-with-a-rock-soundtrack. This entry in the ink, paint and rock ‘n roll mini-genre is not directly about the music, but heavily emphasizes its soundtrack, basing sequences around it not quite like FANTASIA, but not completely unlike it. And some of the visual subject matter definitely shares its DNA with the kind of stuff they put on the album covers for this kind of music.

HEAVY METAL was based on the comics anthology magazine Heavy Metal, which is an English translation of the French magazine Métal hurlant. If they had translated the title literally it would’ve been HOWLING METAL, so it would’ve sounded about fifteen to twenty times cooler, but I bet it wouldn’t have been turned into an animated feature with a soundtrack featuring Sammy Hagar, Nazareth and Black Sabbath. And Devo and Blue Öyster Cult and Cheap Trick and Journey and Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Nicks. And Riggs? Not the same one we’re thinking of, I don’t think. I don’t know who Riggs is. But he has a song on this.

The movie originates from Canada, specifically producer Ivan Reitman, whose directorial work STRIPES came out the same summer. He’d also produced serious genre movies SHIVERS, THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE and RABID, so this movie being much more of a sci-fi/fantasy/horror type deal than a comedy is not completely out of the blue for him. He’d also produced NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, making him a pioneer of cinematic adaptations of magazine brand names. I wonder if he ever tried to do HIGHLIGHTS’ GOOFUS AND GALLANT? If not they must not have Highlights in Canada, because that’s just a no-brainer. (read the rest of this shit…)

TV movie double feature: Running Delilah (1993) and Amazons (1984)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I’d been wanting to watch this 1993 movie called RUNNING DELILAH, first because it stars Kim Cattrall as a cyborg, then because I realized it was directed by Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES, PSYCHO II, LINK), and it didn’t hurt that it co-starred THE PHANTOM himself, Billy Zane. What I didn’t figure out until shortly after I pressed play was that it was really an ABC TV pilot that was released as a TV movie when it wasn’t picked up for a series. It’s written by Ron Koslow, the screenwriter of INTO THE NIGHT, but more relevant to this he was the creator of Beauty and the Beast, the popular show with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I guess RUNNING DELILAH was one of his romance/genre crossover ideas that didn’t fly.

And I do not believe it transcends that description, but I wanted to review it for The Cultural Record, so I’ll go ahead and throw in another TV movie, AMAZONS (1984) that was included on the same DVD. (It also had SUPERDOME [1978] and THE AMY FISHER STORY [1993,the one with Drew Barrymore]) but I didn’t watch those.)

RUNNING DELILAH finds Christina (Cattrall) working as a secretary, but she’s actually Delilah, a spy trying to steal documents from her criminal boss (Yorgo Voyagis, VAMPIRE IN VENICE). She meets up with her partner Paul (Zane), who sports what was called a “Caesar cut,” as popularized by George Clooney on ER, and laments that they never got it on. He seems to take it well when she turns him down again, and this is actually one time when it’s a benefit that it was supposed to be a TV show. If it was a movie the guy she turns down would turn out to be a traitor, but since it’s a TV show it just means there will be sexual tension and then they’ll fall for each other. (read the rest of this shit…)

Possessor

Monday, February 8th, 2021

POSSESSOR is a fucking great and deeply disturbing near-future-cyberpunkish assassination thriller directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Yeah, when you’re David Cronenberg’s son, seems like it would be good not to direct real grim, trippy movies that are gonna be compared to your genius dad’s early shit. Too much to live up to. It might be easier to just be a rapper named Li’l Decker or something. Like, what if Sofia Coppola had started out making gangster movies? But DJ The Doctor From JASON X here pulls it off. It doesn’t seem to be copying any specific content or style from the elder Cronenberg, but it definitely is a contemporary equivalent to the tone and quality of the old man’s early, crazy shit.

It stars Andrea Riseborough, who I for a second recognized from MANDY but thought – nah, must be somebody else. She plays a pallid and haunted looking lady named Tasya Vos, a fittingly cool name for someone in her line of work. She looks like she’s on her death bed, but it’s part of her job as a strange type of assassin and undercover agent… I would say a futuristic type, but I’m told this takes place in alternate past? I don’t know. But she spends most of her time in a lab with her head plugged into a machine that somehow projects her consciousness into an implant that her colleagues have clandestinely placed inside an unwilling subject. So, while controlling some poor sucker’s body, she murders her target, then turns a gun on “herself,” which returns her to her real body and/or ties up the loose ends of the assassination plot. Kind of like a clumsier, riskier, more evil version of plugging into the Matrix. (read the rest of this shit…)